TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that an Ocean County man was sentenced to state prison today for attempting to lure a 15-year-old boy he met on social media to meet for a sexual encounter. The “boy” in reality was an undercover detective participating in “Operation Open House,” a multi-agency undercover operation in September 2018 led by the Attorney General’s Office that resulted in arrests of 24 men who allegedly were using social media to lure underage girls and boys for sexual activity.
Thomas K. Blumensteel, 48, of Manchester, N.J., was sentenced today to seven years in prison, including five years of parole ineligibility, by Superior Court Judge Therese A. Cunningham in Ocean County. Blumensteel pleaded guilty on Sept. 9, 2019 to a charge of second-degree luring. He will be required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law and will be subject to parole supervision for life. Blumensteel is a repeat sex offender. He was sentenced to three years in New Jersey State Prison in 1997 for aggravated criminal sexual contact for sexually assaulting a boy, 13, whom he was supervising as a church counselor.
Deputy Attorney General Rachael Weeks prosecuted Blumensteel and handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau.
Blumensteel was arrested in September 2018 during Operation Open House. An undercover detective had encountered him the prior week on social media. Blumensteel, who believed the undercover agent was a 15-year-old boy, asked the “boy” to meet him for sexual activity. During the exchanges, Blumensteel discussed the sexual acts they would perform when they met. He was arrested on Sept. 6, 2018 when he arrived at the house in Toms River where dozens of officers and agents participating in Operation Open House were prepared to arrest offenders and process any evidence seized.
During the past 14 months, the Division of Criminal Justice, the New Jersey State Police, and members of the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, including federal, state, county, and local law enforcement partners, have arrested 59 alleged child predators in three major undercover operations in Ocean, Bergen, and Somerset counties. Just yesterday, Oct. 31, Attorney General Grewal and Somerset County Prosecutor Michael Robertson announced arrests of 19 alleged predators in “Operation Open Door.”
“This seven-year prison sentence sends a strong message that we will aggressively prosecute child predators,” said Attorney General Grewal. “As long as sex offenders like Blumensteel target children, we will continue our collaborative law enforcement efforts to arrest them. We are working hard every day to protect children, and we urge parents to do their part by talking to their children about social media and the dangers posed by online predators.”
“We want sexual predators like Blumensteel to know that the vulnerable child they seek to lure on social media may turn out to be a law enforcement officer,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “New Jersey has tough laws targeting child predators and those who download and distribute child pornography, and we will continue to use them to put dangerous offenders behind bars.”
In addition to investigating cyber tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, members of the New Jersey State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit, the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Cyber Crimes Bureau, and the New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force routinely conduct undercover chat investigations on social media platforms leading to arrests of hands-on offenders and defendants attempting to lure children. They also conduct proactive investigations to apprehend offenders by monitoring peer-to-peer file-sharing networks and identifying the IP addresses of individuals sharing child pornography.
Attorney General Grewal and Director Allende urge anyone with information about the distribution of child pornography on the internet – or about suspected improper contact by unknown persons communicating with children via the internet or possible exploitation or sexual abuse of children – to please contact the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tipline at 888-648-6007.
Ronald A. Rosa, Esq. Toms River, N.J.
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